Am I the only one who can't spot news bias to save my life?

Seriously, the two news channels I hear the most about for being biased are Fox News and CNN. CNN being to far to the left, Fox News being too far to the right. So I decided to try something. I watched a good while (about an hour or so) of each. Couldn’t see any bias whatsoever in either. Made me wonder “well, what the hell is everyone bitching about?”

Am I the only one who can’t identify political bias on the news for anything?

Y’know, I never really can, either, man. Sometimes I see where a news source might focus on a particular topic, but I never see how any bias they might have actually results in outright lies or dishonesty about a given situation.

Often times bias is more subtle than outright lies. That’s what’s meant by “spin” – the same “ball” of news is launched across the net toward the public, but how it “bounces” depends on the “spin” put on it by the media, or those who would influence the media.

Frex, here are three leads about an execution:

Condemned murderer Karla Faye Tucker was executed at the Greenblatt Maximium Security Facility in Pissant, Texas at 12:03 a.m. on November 14.

Condemned murderer Karla Faye Tucker, convicted in the brutal ax murder of two teens, was executed at the Greenblatt blah blah blah

Condemned murderer Karla Faye Tucker, whose prison conversion to Christianity led many religious groups to appeal to have her sentence commuted to life in prison, was executed at the Greenblatt blah blah blah.

All three leads are factually correct, but obviously there’s some spinning going on in tow of them. Most of the time it’s a matter of how the facts are presented. Outright lies are easily caught and detected by political opponents – but it’s rarely the journalists who knowingly lie.

CNN too far to the left??? You must be pulling my ****ing leg (sorry for the language, I’m usually a denzien of the pit).

A NEWS organization shouldn’t be a cheerleader for anyone. They are supposed to report the news, not cheer for a particular side. Look at their coverage of the American war on Iraq. They are cheerleaders, not reporters.

CNN is not left in any way shape or form.

It just doesn’t foam at the mouth as much as Fox News. But it’s still rabid.

It’s simple - if you agree with them, they are bastions of fair reporting. If you don’t, they are communist/fascist (depending on your leanings) sympathizers out to undermine the government.

Other than that, emotional words (brutal/ax murderer) and non-essential information (converted to Christianity) are more likely to indicate “bias”. But that’s human nature - we all have feelings about the things going on in the world, and a reporter is going to have a very hard time separating his or her feelings from the facts.

I’d suggest that an hour or so’s viewing isn’t really enough, particularly if you’re just watching news. You need to watch the interviews and commentaries.

I forgot: left/right isn’t the only sort of bias. The other major bias axis is statist vs libertarian, though most socialists seem to be statists.

It IS simple, but not in the way you suggest. You just pare away reporting to the basic facts and then look at the slop you’ve pared away. Generally, it will tend to reveal bias if there is any. Accusations of bias may be based on an observer’s political orientation, but it generally isn’t very hard to look at the media and see for yourself.

I would say Fox definitely has a hard right bias, CNN is more middle of the road with a tendency to swerve to the right more often than it swerves to the left.

My coworker (who chides every single politician and pundit in America for being Not Conservative Enough) calls CNN the Communist News Network. I ignore him.

Remember that news organization don’t want to challenge their viewers, too many people don’t like that, so they’ll always spin a story to fit their target audience. To get a feeling for what audience a news organization is going for, look at the stuff that isn’t really news that they report on.

A glance at their website reveals that NPR assumes their audience is interested in knowing what books are selling well in Iraq, about an updated PC version of Little Black Sambo, Sacred Relics of the Freemasons, etc. They also have stories about, for example, Halliburton’s sweetheart contracts in postwar Iraq. Clearly they’re aimed at the educated, literate, fairly liberal set.

Fox News, on the other hand, is reporting on things like who won the Powerball lottery, Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez, Michael Jackson, and the Rose Bowl. They have stories like “Big Wins in War on Terror in 2003”, “Libertarian Heroes of 2003”, and “War on Terror Handbook: Understanding and Facing the Threat to America”. Clearly, this is aimed right at conservative middle America.


Lucki Charms–

You seem to assume that Conservatives consume the “simple” news and that the “liberals” enjoy headier, more enlighted stuff.

By extention, you seem to imply that Liberals are more literate and educated than Conservatives.

I’ve seen this sentiment implied a few times on this board by other posters at times, but I’ve never read any hard evidence suggesting that this is indeed true.

Someday, however, I suspect someone will be able to show a clear correlation between Right-Wingness and lower intellect— A “Bell Curve” for the 21st Century-- but this time supported by (heretofore undiscovered) facts. I could be wrong, of course. But I must say, I happen to believe it myself, but it is just an opinion-- not something I can prove. (To me, educated people are usually more curious, and the curious are more willing to move forward and try new things-- this can perhaps be extrapolated into personal politics and philosophy)

By the way-- Fox News and CNN BOTH have a bias to the Right. Fox is just a whole lot more obvious and ham-fisted about it.

Bias also shows in what news outlets don’t say. For example, I have never ever seen a photograph of Newt Gingrich smiling. I feel pretty certain this is not because he never smiles.

Yep, photo choice can add a really nice visual bias to a story. I mean, I’ve lost count of the times I think “They must have chosen the most embarrassing photo of Bush they had. I mean, he really doesn’t make that dopey face all the time, does he?”
[I’m serious, BTW. I have seen photos run where there just had to be better coverage at the event, they just chose one that made him look goofy.]

And bagkitty is spot on about CNN’s cheerleading. I stopped using them as a primary news source after their coverage was consistently so rah-rah it made me uncomfortable.

Remember that every news organization, whether funded by commercials or subscribers, is essentially in the business of keeping itself going. Ergo, they will report the things that the members of their target audience want to hear. This bias helps to determine which stories they will air, which stories they will NOT air, and the slant each story is to receive. For the most obvious example of bias in the American media, look at the Fox News Channel.

FOX News caters to that portion of the right-leaning population with a taste for sensationalism and confrontation. During its coverage of the war in Iraq, FNC started each news segment with an animation of an American bald eagle swooping around and morphing into a jet fighter. The stories placed heavy emphasis on the “good news”. The footage of Sadaam’s statue toppling and joyous Iraqis dancing in the streets got heavy rotation, without any mention that most of the force being exerted was from an American tank, not by joyous Iraqis. The network devoted a lot of resources to cementing the justification of the war in the minds of their viewers, first by repeatedly insisting that WMDs would be found, then by downplaying their apparent absence. Commentators were quick to label many who opposed the war as “bad Americans” and called for a boycott of Dixie Chicks CDs, Michael Moore films, and all products manufactured in France.

They found a sympathetic ear. There are plenty of Americans who feel alienated by excessive political correctness in the media and who hanker back to the “glory days” when they could feel proud of their country without wringing their hands over every misdeed committed by white European settlers in the past three hundred years. There are a lot of people who view the world in concrete terms of right and wrong and resent the increasing public acceptance of other viewpoints. This is the FOX News Channel’s target audience, and it is this portion of the population that their programming is designed to appeal to.

It does seem strange to me that rightist reporting is usually very short on analysis and rather simplistic, whereas more liberal reporting generally gives reasoning.

I can’t imagine where this leaves those right wingers, republicans and the like who actually have brains and would like to see serious news reporting.

That’s what baffled me with FOX’s “Fair and Balanced”, as you say “They are supposed to report the news, not cheer for a particular side.” Doesn’t the FOX slogan imply that they have a slant …but honest our slant is even. It’s kind of like stuff you see in The Simpsons “We salute the American worker Now 61% drug free!” making the problem an advertising tag.

Supposedly years ago after the Melbourne Cup the headlines were:

In Queensland “Queensland Owned Horse Wins Cup”

In Sydney “Sydney Trainer Wins Cup”

In Melbourne “Melbourne Jockey Rides Cup Winner”

In New Zealand “New Zealand Bred Cup Triumph”

Precisely… there should be a distinction between sports coverage, and real news…

Stop reading The Sun :smiley: and try reading the Daily Telegraph. It’s online as well as in print.